Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Illustration by Drew Shannon

Before the pandemic, the only private space I had at work was in my head. My cubicle was a pair of headphones with walls of carefully curated playlists. Different lists were useful on different days for different reasons: Some held songs that energized me to finish a dragging afternoon; others made stressful days tolerable.

I’ve filled most of the playlists with songs intended to stir memories – and labelled them “embarrassing alt-rock” or “cottage.” The songs were chosen for the windows they open into my past, instead of how they sound or what they mean. Joni Mitchell’s Help Me will always be the song I heard piping from a restaurant window on a hot summer day in Gravenhurst. I can’t help but smile and remember being seven years old, walking with my father. Other associations are murkier; the song and the memory have no relation. A Blue Rodeo song reminds me of a late-night walk, talking to a friend, when I was 17. I don’t know why.

Sometimes, though, I want to listen to music without the weight of memory. One day at work, deadlines looming, the twitch of an algorithm started a new song playing.

Story continues below advertisement

Please die Ana

For as long as you’re here we’re not

It was a song that, eventually, I remembered from high school.

I was never a Silverchair fan. Twenty years ago Ana’s Song was background noise. I had vague memories of it playing between better songs on The Edge and MuchMusic. But it summoned a generic wave of nostalgia. For a time when I had fewer responsibilities and more possibilities.

Today, sitting at my desk, it was a momentary distraction from a headache-inducing spreadsheet.

The song kept playing and I tuned out as I focused on my work.

Then the chorus began, Oh, and open fire on the needs designed / On my knees for you …” and suddenly I remembered the deep chill of a rain-soaked T-shirt clinging to my back. A muddy field under slate-grey clouds. Steam rose from a mosh pit as people danced, driven less by the fire of the music as the desire for warmth in the midst of an endless rainstorm. My legs were shaking from cold and exhaustion. Fingers, stiff from cold, struggled to peel off a single bus ticket made fragile by the rain that had soaked through my wallet.

Story continues below advertisement

I had never felt such strong memories from any song. I leaned back, eyes closed, and listened to the otherwise unremarkable music. The memories were so vivid it felt like a betrayal to songs I liked better.

The memories were images and feelings I didn’t know I had forgotten a moment before. Puzzle pieces I hadn’t realized I’d lost slotted themselves into the narrative I had built around this concert.

Edgefest 1999 was the first concert I ever attended. I still tell people about standing with a couple of friends, and a dozen strangers huddled under a small stand of trees on the edge of the outdoor venue. The rain that had been pouring all day was finally beginning to let up. Wet and cold, with mud splashed up to our knees, we were muttering amongst ourselves. The weather wasn’t what was annoying us, though. It was the next band’s delayed set. In the self-centredness only a teenager can get away with, we didn’t understand why a band wouldn’t want to play on a stage covered in puddles. Or we didn’t care.

After the rain finally stopped the sun made a delayed, rock star-worthy entrance. Roadies dried the stage and the concert resumed. I had no idea what band it was that we were annoyed at for keeping us all waiting. The program I had grabbed at the gate had long ago failed as a makeshift umbrella.

Twenty-one years later, while analyzing sales-performance stats, listening to Ana’s Song, a song that had barely been a memory moments before, I knew that the band I had been telling people about for decades was Silverchair.

On that summer day, the teenager I was didn’t register the delayed impact this song would have. There was no lightning-strike chord that burrowed into my soul. The song passed through me and I thought it left no trace. It was nothing more than another song played that day. Silverchair was a footnote in the concert for me.

Story continues below advertisement

But now, Ana’s Song has replaced all the others as the song that makes me remember that day. I can tell you what songs I heard; I’ve looked up setlists in the years since the show. I have seen bands I like more – that day and at other concerts – but the songs that I know they played don’t conjure up this same feeling of being present in that place.

Ana’s Song is the closest to time travel I have ever experienced. I have never before felt so fully like I could close my eyes and reopen them as a teenager in a muddy field.

For a few minutes, I listened with my eyes closed. For a few minutes, I could ignore a spreadsheet and escape a world unlike any I thought I would experience.

I smiled, thankful to a band I’d forgotten, for the opportunity to remember a day I thought I knew.

Matthew Singleton lives in Toronto.

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies